Australia: Domestic violence – How many more Rhonda Bakers have to die?

Rhonda Baker's story is an all too familiar one. It's disturbingly plagued with all of the 'obvious' elements of a typical partner violence situation that resulted in her death.

31-year old Onitolosi Etuini Atiai Latu was recently sentenced to a maximum of 28 years in prison for assaulting Rhonda Baker so badly in August 2016 that he killed her. He was is required to serve a minimum term of 21 years, for what the Judge described as a "murder of extreme brutality".

During the sentencing proceedings, Justice Julia Lonergan said: "Given the number of distinct injuries, the terrifying powerlessness she must have felt, and the undoubted brutality of the manner in which the fatal injuries to her head and face were inflicted, I consider this to be a very serious example of offending of this type."

Sadly, Rhonda Baker's life as a victim of intimate partner violence is all too text-book, including the fact Mr Latu had previously been imprisoned for attacking another partner in 2013, and was issued with an apprehended domestic violence order in April 2016 – just a few months before Rhonda's killing – after someone witnessed him attacking her in their car.

The court also heard that the physical and psychological abuse he subjected Ms Baker to went as far back as 2010, and his violent behaviour escalated in the lead up to her death. Tendered in court was an email Ms Baker sent herself which outlined the brutal existence she suffered at the hands of Mr Latu, and foreshadowed: "one day I will be dead". She wrote of his bashings, and contemplated suicide.

About a week prior to her death, Ms Baker turned up at work with facial injuries. She had, on previous occasions, worn sunglasses and scarves to cover up bruises from her abuse.

This time, she told a colleague she had been punched in the face. She had, according to friends and colleagues, spoken repeatedly about getting away but was worried Mr Latu would find her. She said she planned to leave him this time, to go to live with relatives.

As most victim support professionals know, this is the most dangerous time for victims. It's a time when, if the violence is severe enough, the woman is most likely to be killed. So in this way too, Rhonda Baker's death was alarmingly typical of so many women in her situation.

Ten days later, she was dead.

The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children

Just last week, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) endorsed the Fourth Action Plan within the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, agreeing on five national priorities to reduce family, domestic and sexual violence.

The plan comes with $328 million funding, which was announced by the Federal Government earlier this year, and is the final plan in a series that have been implemented since 2009. While full details of the Fourth Action Plan are yet to be announced, the Department of Social Services website says it " sets out an ambitious but practical agenda to achieve change and eradicate the unacceptable acts of violence against women and their children."

While it's clear that domestic and family violence and violence against women generally have become so entrenched in Australian society, we will need to wait some years to see real change, questions really do need to be raised about the effectiveness of the measures being put in place to combat the problem.

How are we measuring effectiveness?

In its last progress report, dated 2016-2017, it's evident that both the Federal Government and the states and territories have each made substantial financial investments in reducing the number of women and children affected by family and domestic violence.

But the reported statistics show cause for concern.

The progress report admits that while the prevalence of violence against women in Australia has been falling since at least 1996, numbers show that the two areas in particular targeted by the national plan — sexual violence and partner violence – have increased between 2012 and 2016.

If this is the case, then how are we measuring effectiveness? Millions of taxpayer dollars are being targeted at an issue that is highly relevant and important to most Australians. And yet, there are still too many stories like Rhonda Bakers, who was completely failed by a system that should have offered her protection. On average one woman each week is murdered by her current or former partner.

Rhonda's family describes her as "the nicest girl ever." Court evidence tells the story of a bright young woman who knew she was in trouble. Family and friends looked out for her, but she felt trapped in fear. Sickening fear, that even if she did get away, she would be found. The court heard Mr Latu had threatened "cave her head in" and that he also told Ms Baker that if she left him he would "go after her family and burn her grandfather's house down."

It's despicable that despite the fact that her situation was known to family and friends, the fact that her partner had a previous conviction, and the fact that she did, by all accounts, have both an income to make some choices and somewhere to go if she left Mr Latu, she remained unsafe at the hands of a man who was supposed to care for her, but instead had a tendency to pull "pull the hair, knock unconscious or karate-kick in the face," the women who displeased him.

In the end Mr Latu beat Rhonda so badly she died in hospital from a brain injury as a result of the multiple blows he inflicted to her head. He told paramedics she might have been beaten down the street. Blood in their apartment suggested otherwise. Even after he was found guilty, he told a psychiatrist that an ex-boyfriend was behind her death.

If we understand the hallmarks of a potential non-remorseful violent re-offender, if we can plainly see a victim in trouble, if we are implementing initiatives nation-wide to improve education and social awareness, as well as access to front line emergency and crisis services, why do we keep hearing the tragic and disturbing stories of women like Rhonda?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions